INCREASES have been agreed to hackney fares in Ellesmere Port.

Last November, hackney trade representative Gary Woodward put forward proposed new fares, the first for nearly three years, to Cheshire West and Chester Council.

He said the increases, which will see a basic five-mile fare rise by an extra £1 to £9.80, the highest in Cheshire West and Chester, were backed by 50 members of the local trade.

The new rates were advertised in the Spring and the council had 27 objections, 26 from the trade.

At a meeting last week, other cabbies argued an increase would hit the disabled, the old and infirm, mums with prams and larger groups.

They suggested black cabs are seen as expensive by the public and hackneys would be much more expensive than private hire.

A black cab from Little Sutton to Destiny and Elite would be up to £10, they claimed, while a private hire would be £8.60.

Six people going from Little Sutton to Chester could pay more than £20.

The cabbies suggested: “The Ellesmere Port and Neston zone needs the stability of the present pricing structure” and pointed out fares had almost levelled between private hire and cabs.

Heathfield Court resident Rosanna Roberts told the council: "This seems a very inopportune time to be raising taxi fares when everyone else is cutting back.”

She felt an increase would mean her friend who uses a wheelchair would not be able to afford a cab to a day centre in Chester.

The council’s licensing committee, meeting at HQ in Chester, was told it could agree the increase or recommend revised fares.

Committee chairman Cllr Brian Crowe (Con) sought confirmation the trade did not have to charge the maximum fare.

Cllr Bob Rudd (Lab) asked: "Do we have any knowledge of the number of taxi owners and drivers who do not charge the maximum?”

Regulatory services manager Andy Challinor told the committee that fares in Ellesmere Port had been below those in Chester.

Cllr Brian Jones (Lab), a former licensing chairman in Ellesmere Port, pointed out there was only a certain amount of business in the town.

Cllr Eveleigh Moore Dutton (Con) remarked the proposed fares for three miles and five miles would be the highest in Cheshire West and Chester.

She said: “I cannot understand why we would be wanting a higher rate in Ellesmere Port,”

She felt this should be the same as fares charged in Chester.

Approval of the new fares requested by Mr Woodward was moved by Cllr Crowe and seconded by Cllr Malcolm Byram (Con).

The committee agreed the new charges which include basic fares of £5.20 for two miles, up from £4.40 and £6.80 for three miles (£5.90).